An Engineer in Wonderland – Tsunami generator
I had assumed that almost everything was simulated in computers these days, but aparently not as the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) has just paid for a wave simulator with real sloshing water.
It seems that a new facility is needed to simulate the dreadful 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Photo: Tsunami generator before being lowered into the water. Horizontal baffles stop sloshing inside the tank for a cleaner wave.
The aim is to understand forces within giant waves so that more robust buildings and infrastructure can designed for areas prone to such things.
Mounted in a 45m-long wave channel, the generator uses pneumatic pumps and valves to suck water up into a tank, whence it is released in a controlled way.
“This makes the facility fundamentally different from all other wave simulators worldwide, which generally use pistons to produce waves by pushing at the water,” said EPSRC. “Tests by researchers have shown that it can reproduce the draw-down phenomenon that is characteristic of trough-led tsunamis where the sea is sucked out first before rushing back towards the shoreline.”
Another difference is that it can generate longer-wavelengths than the piston type – a real tsunami can have a wavelength of several hundred kilometres in the open ocean.
“Although the basic concept is actually quite simple, this is the only facility that has ever been able to replicate the draw-down phenomenon in the laboratory”, said EPICENTRE director Dr Tiziana Rossetto. “We’ve already used the generator to mimic the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at 1:75scale. The data gathered should be validated and then made available to the scientific community within the next two years.”
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